Age-related muscular degeneration is a disease weakening the retina cells in human eyes. It can cause blindness, especially in aged people. The wet subtype has a more rapidly progressive course so that it takes an only several week for the patients to lose vision, compared to the dry subtype. Instead, the dry subtype is hardly treated whereas VEGF inhibitor is likely to effective for the sufferer of the wet subtype.
Recently, retina cells transplantation made from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) seemed promising to save the patients. Retinal pigment epithelium is not regenerative in the human eye. But, iPS cells can be grown into retinal pigment epithelium in the lab. In this operation, the cell sheet developed outside is to be transplanted.
Recently, the first treatment in the UK was implemented. There are 700,000 patients estimated to be adopted to this treatment.
The Guardian: First UK patient receives stem cell treatment to cure loss of vision
The iPS cell was firstly established by Dr. Yamanaka, a Japanese Nobel Prize winner. And Japanese is the first person received this treatment last year. The 70s old lady seems not to experience any adverse event related to the transplant.
Nature: Japanese woman is first recipient of next-generation stem cells
The Japan News: See the bigger picture, then change things for the better
Unfortunately, retina transplantation for muscular degeneration has only the effect to prevent the deterioration. It is difficult to recover the sight dramatically. Neural junction in the eye to the brain is so complex that we have not entirely clarified the mechanism.
To achieve a more progressive treatment, Japanese research team is planning to utilize iPS cells in allograft transplantation. Allograft transplantation has a fewer risk of rejection in transplantation, leading to decreased total cost. Meanwhile, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is eager to industrialize the regenerative medicine.
The Mainichi: Scientists seek iPS cell application in allograft transplants
Progressive medicine brings us a new hope. I wish the utilization of iPS cells will be successful. At the same time, monetizing the innovative idea properly is also essential so that many patients can be benefited with low cost.